Best trips for 2020

From culture and adventure to cities and nature, this is the ultimate list of the 25 destinations for the year ahead. Discover where to go, what to know, and how to see the world right now.Tuesday, 19 November 2019

By National Geographic

THE WORLD AWAITS. Where will you go next? Our editors and explorers pick the planet’s 25 most exciting destinations for the year ahead. To create our annual Best Trips list we collaborated with the editorial teams of National Geographic Traveler’s 17 international editions and with our own globe-trotting experts to report on the essential and sustainable sites to see in 2020. Grab your bags and go.

CULTURE

1. Asturias, Spain

Why go now: Relish an Iberian province capped with snowy summits and steeped in tradition

What to know: An autonomous region of Spain, Asturias lies along the Bay of Biscay, dense with trees that run up hillsides, dotted by wild marshland, and scalloped with tidy beaches. “Nowhere else in Spain can you find so many flavors, such incredible variety, in such a small area. It is like an entire country,” says José Antelo, an air traffic controller based in Barcelona. He comes to Asturias three or four times a year to enjoy the province’s celebrated cuisine, from Cabrales cheese to cider (poured from on high into a glass, a maneuver intended to create froth and open up flavors). The Asturian capital of Oviedo is a compact city of roughly 220,000 separated from the larger city of Gijón by rapidly encroaching suburbs. Oviedo has the better museums, Gijón has the beach. After the cities, head to the Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe) National Park, with its spiky summits and herds of sheep. Up here, trees fall away, and the view opens to a wide sky of cotton ball clouds.

When to go: May–September How to go: See Europe’s oldest known fossils and the medieval Asturian town of Santillana del Mar on National Geographic’s 10-day “Human Origins” expedition across southwestern France and northern Spain.

2. Guizhou, China

If you like: Ancient traditions

Why go now: Step into villages mostly untouched by time

Historically one of China’s most isolated and undiscovered provinces, southwestern Guizhou is gaining global notice as a cloud computing and big-data centre. The mountainous region’s plentiful water and cool climate are draws for Apple, Huawei, and other tech powerhouses that have established or are building facilities in the provincial capital, Guiyang.

This buzz around bytes has improved access to the entire province, including the traditional villages of ethnic minority groups, such as the Bouyei, Dong, and Miao. In eastern Guizhou’s indigenous villages, in particular, days unfold at a slow pace and people continue farming and textile traditions—such as spinning, embroidery, and batik—practiced since the sixth century.

On guided tours (by appointment) of Dimen Dong Cultural Eco-Museum, a self-sufficient community encompassing several villages, visitors likely will hear Dong folk singing, recognised as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009, or see master artisans demonstrating traditional Dong folk crafts, such as papermaking and handloom weaving. Josan Ruiz, director, Nat Geo Travel Spain

When to go: Apr-May

How to go: The Guiyang–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway connects the megacity of Guangzhou (northwest of Hong Kong) with Guizhou province, including station stops in ethnic regions.

3. Göbekli Tepe, Turkey

If you like: Archaeology

Why go now: Feel your paradigms shift at the world’s oldest known temple complex

Built about 11,600 years ago, the monumental limestone pillars at Göbekli Tepe, or Potbelly Hill, have been hiding in plain sight for millennia. Excavation of the megaliths only began in the mid-1990s. The archaeological site is located in southeastern Turkey, at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent region that nurtured early civilisations.

Much of the massive Göbekli Tepe site remains underground and a mystery. What has been revealed—primarily circles and rectangles of massive stones decorated with bas-reliefs of boars, foxes, and gazelles—comprise the world’s oldest known temple complex.

The extraordinary discoveries made here have rewritten the story of how the first civilisations began. Contrary to the long-held belief that the world’s earliest permanent settlements developed due to agriculture, Göbekli Tepe suggests that the impetus was a desire for a place of worship. Researchers theorise that it was built by hunter-gatherers as a regional meeting point and that agriculture was born out of the need to feed all the people involved in the unprecedented construction effort. Kemal Gözegir, assistant editor, Nat Geo Travel Turkey

When to go: Mar-May

How to go: Before visiting Göbekli Tepe, tour the nearby Şanlıurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum to see a replica of the temple and artifacts from the site. goturkeytourism.com

4. Guatemala

If you like: Jungle temples

Why go now: Meet the Maya — past and present

A treasure map created using revolutionary laser technology is leading to new discoveries under the jungle canopy of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in northern Guatemala. Armed with information gathered via the Pacunam Lidar Initiative, an 800-square-mile aerial survey, archaeologists are finding long-hidden pyramids, watchtowers, and other ruins of an extensive pre-Columbian civilisation considerably more complex than most Maya experts realised. While not yet accessible to the public, the latest discoveries confirm that Guatemala is the place to dive into Maya culture, then and now.

Ancient roots run particularly deep in the northernmost Petén region, the jungle-cloaked heart of the Maya world. See the stone jewels of Central America’s pre-Hispanic past in Uaxactún, Yaxhá, El Mirador, and Tikal National Park. In modern, multicultural Guatemala, Maya descendants constitute more than half the population, making the country the only one in Central America with an indigenous cultural majority. Experience this culture in the Tz’utujil Maya villages around Lake Atitlán. Erick Piñedo, editorial coordinator, Nat Geo Travel Latin America

When to go: Nov-Dec

How to go: Tz’utujil Maya artisans lead tours, conduct workshops, and sell textiles, leather products, and yarns offered by Lake Atitlán-based Ethical Fashion Guatemala. ethicalfashionguatemala.com

5. Mendoza, Argentina

If you like: Stellar vintages

Why go now: Drink a mighty Malbec and delve into the roots of its flavour

With bodegas (wine cellars) backed by the snowcapped Andes and the world’s best Malbec, Argentina’s Mendoza province is a spectacularly scenic place to tour vineyards and satisfy the palate. Copious sunshine, bone-dry climate, and a high altitude (nearing 4,000 feet at some vineyards) nourish Mendoza’s award-winning Malbec and other varietals, such as Torrontés, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

The province’s three main wine regions—Maipú, Lujan de Cuyo, and Uco Valley—are strung along Argentina’s epic Ruta 40 (one of the longest highways in the world), within 75 miles of Mendoza’s eponymous capital city. The Spanish introduced grapes here in the 16th century, and some wineries are more than a century old. Yet it’s the locals’ warmth and their passion for winemaking that set Mendoza apart from other global wine capitals, says Kai Reinke, founder and director of Ampora Wine Tours. The area’s vineyard owners, winemakers, and agronomists “just have a way of making you feel like an old friend in a very short time,” Reinke says. “Through our connections, we are able to include experiences like sitting at the tasting table with a winery owner, talking about wine and life, while he pulls out yet another amazing bottle he would like you to taste.”

When to go: Mar-Apr

How to go: Visit wineries in two Mendoza regions on the day-long “Taste of Lujan and Maipú” small-group experience with Ampora Wine Tours. mendozawinetours.com

6. Abu Simbel, Egypt

If you like: Legendary Pharaohs

Why go now: Enjoy a private audience with Ramses II

Tourism to Egypt is rebounding from its steep decline in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. However, the feeling of having a destination to yourself still can be found at Abu Simbel, deep in the south of Egypt near its border with Sudan. Originally cut into a rock cliff by the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II (ca. 1303–ca. 1213 b.c.), the temples at Abu Simbel are at once archaeological treasures and marvels of modern engineering. Buried by sand for millennia, the towering landmarks were unearthed by archaeologists in 1813 and saved from the rising waters of Lake Nassar—the gigantic reservoir created by the damming of the mighty Nile at Aswan—by a monumental five-year relocation effort launched by the Egyptian government and UNESCO in 1960.

Before vast areas were flooded, the temples were meticulously disassembled, moved, and reconstructed on higher ground, 200 feet above the cliff. Together with several additional Nubian monuments, the temple complex was named a World Heritage site in 1979. Wander from one dimly lit chamber to another through the 98-foot-tall Great Temple, guarded by four gigantic figures of Ramses II. Stand awestruck in front of images of the pharaoh and Nefertari, his beloved queen, engraved on the walls more than 3,000 years ago. Take your time: Chances are few people will be jostling for your view. Daphne Raz, editor in chief, Nat Geo Travel Israel

When to go: Feb-Mar

How to go: A good way to experience Abu Simbel is as part of a Nile cruise. Outfitters cruising the river include National Geographic Expeditions, Oberoi, and Abercrombie & Kent.

CITIES

1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Why go now: Rediscover an American classic

What to know: There’s a lot of glimmer in Philadelphia: vibrant murals and glinting metalworks, multihued mosaics and kaleidoscopic light installations, art collectives in garages, and a traditionally Italian neighborhood famous for cheesesteaks now sprouting vegan-punk-metal coffeehouses. Think of Detroit, Cleveland, and Cincinnati: resurgent, postindustrial American cities that are channeling creative forces to reinvent themselves for a new generation. Philly is like this but better. It’s a scrappy underdog with a heart of gold and—who can resist the Rocky reference?—the eye of the tiger. Slowly but steadily Philly has changed from a city of industrial might in the first half of the past century to a city of ingenious makers. The evidence is everywhere, from buzzing BOK—a South Philly collective of small businesses and art spaces—to Bela Shehu’s chic and cutting-edge fashion line NinoBrand, in Rittenhouse Square.

When to go: Year-round 

How to go: Base yourself at the Rittenhouse for old-school Philadelphia glamour or the new Notary Hotel, then head out to quirky culture spots the Mütter Museum and the Edgar Allan Poe House.

2. Telč, Czechia

If you like: Cool castles

Why go now: Become charmed by a fairytale setting

With resplendent Italian Renaissance architecture, it’s no wonder the southern Czechia (Czech Republic) town of Telč is sometimes called the Czech Florence. Positioned midway between Prague to the north and Vienna to the south, the storybook town got its official start in the 14th century as a crossroads on the well-trodden trading routes among Bohemia, Moravia, and Austria.

International travellers to Czechia typically tend to flock to the capital city, Prague, and the historic town of Český Krumlov, in Bohemia. But you’re more likely to meet Czech travellers if you visit Telč, on the border between Moravia and Bohemia.

Stone walls and a system of man-made fish ponds helped protect Telč’s historic town centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The triangular marketplace is bordered by a rainbow of pastel-hued burgher houses, originally constructed from wood and rebuilt with stone after fire decimated the town in 1530. From the square, walk to the Telč Chateau. The former Gothic castle was transformed into a Renaissance jewel by nobleman Zachariáš of Hradec and his wife, Kateřina, whose Italianate taste inspired Telč’s ornate style.

When to go: May-Sep

How to go: Tour the Telč castle to see the sumptuous stucco chapel, built about 1580, as the final resting place of Zachariáš and Kateřina. zamek-telc.cz/en

3. Fort Kochi, India

If you like: Contemporary art

Why go now: Admire aesthetic trends in the tropics

The oldest European settlement in India is gaining notice as a buzzing new arts hub. Seaside Kochi, located in Kerala state on the southwestern Malabar Coast, was founded in 1500 by Portugal, first in a parade of colonial powers (Holland and England followed) to rule the tropical port city. This multilayered colonial past is most present in historic Fort Kochi, the waterfront district where several Dutch- and British-era properties house galleries and cafés.

The four-month-long Kochi-Muziris Biennale is the largest event of its kind in South Asia. Launched in 2012, the biennale showcases contemporary international, Indian, and cross-cultural visual art and experiences, such as Singaporean-Indian artist and writer Shubibi Rao’s 2018 “The Pelagic Tracts, “a multifaceted deep dive into a world where books are the most prized commodity.

Rao is curator of the fifth biennale, set to run from December 12, 2020, to April 10, 2021. Among the likely biennale venues are David Bungalow, built about 1695 by the Dutch East India Company, and the 1867 Aspinwall House, a former British trading company compound. Events also are staged in nearby Mattancherry, home to Kochi’s centuries-old Jewish Quarter. Lakshmi Sankharan, editor, Nat Geo Travel India

When to go: Dec-Apr

How to go: Visit galleries and attend a performance of Kathakali, the classical dance drama of Kerala, on National Geographic’s seven-day “South India: Explore Kerala” trip. natgeoexpeditions.com/explore

4. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

If you like: Historic bridges

Why go now: Mark 25 years of peaceful coexistence

Partially destroyed during the Bosnian War (1992-1995), history-rich Mostar still bears scars of the past. Numerous buildings in the Old City, developed as a 15th-century Ottoman frontier town, have been rebuilt or restored in the 25 years since the Dayton Peace Accords established relative calm in the western Balkans.

Wander around Mostar, which is located on the Neretva River, and you’ll pass newly renovated apartments next to buildings riddled with bullet holes. Local and international artists regularly decorate the abandoned structures with colourful murals, creating a street art collection that has helped boost the appeal of this largely undiscovered Balkan gem.

Mostar’s most tangible image of peace is the 16th-century Stari Most (Old Bridge), rebuilt in 2004. It connects the city’s predominantly Christian Croat west side with the mainly Muslim Bosniak east. Cross the bridge and you may witness a tradition dating back more than 400 years: young men diving into the water from the 79-foot-high span to prove their fearlessness. Barbera Bosma, managing editor, Nat Geo Travel Netherlands

When to go: May

How to go: Visit Mostar as part of a 12-day Nat Geo Expeditions “Discover the Balkans” trip, offered in partnership with G Adventures. natgeoexpeditions.com/explore

5. Parma, Italy

If you like: Classic dishes

Why go now: Savour a multisensory feast

Parma’s gifts to the world include “king of cheeses” Parmigiano-Reggiano, the operas of Giuseppe Verdi, and the ”Assumption of the Virgin” masterwork by High Renaissance painter Correggio. The surrounding Emilia-Romagna region produces a bounty of DOP, or protected origin, foods, such as Parma ham, balsamic vinegar of Modena, and sparkling Lambrusco wines. So no one would be surprised to learn that this northern Italian city has been named Italian Capital of Culture 2020. Plans call for special programs in local venues, including the Labirinto della Masone, home to a bamboo maze billed as the world’s largest, and the sprawling Palazzo della Pilotta, an unfinished 16th-century complex which houses Parma’s premier art museum, Galleria Nazionale.

“Some bigger cities are overrun with tourists, but Parma is still precious,” says Amalfi Coast resident Lauren Piscitelli, whose company Cooking Vacations offers one- to eight-day Parma culinary classes and tours. “There’s an old hat shop where the men and women—who are elegantly dressed all the time—still get their hats made. Come 6 p.m., everyone gathers in tiny cafés for an aperitivo [Italy’s predinner drink-and-appetizer ritual] or a coffee. It’s all very dreamy.”

When to go: Apr-May

How to go: Learn how to prepare a full menu (including handmade pasta) based on local Emilia-Romagna ingredients on the four-day “Chef Mattia’s Kitchen in Parma” program with Cooking Vacations. cooking-vacations.com

6. Puebla, Mexico

If you like: Gilded opulence

Why go now: Because baroque is back

Built by the Spanish in 1531, Mexico’s fourth-largest city is a bastion of baroque architecture. Puebla’s 100-block city centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site, teems with ornate 17th- and 18th-century buildings. Many are adorned with Talavera tiles: brightly painted clay mini-masterpieces blending Puebla’s indigenous and European colonial influences. Few match the opulence of the Church of Santo Domingo’s Capilla del Rosario (above), which is bathed in 23-karat gold leaf. With the goal of celebrating this art movement, the International Museum of the Baroque opened in 2016. The following year a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook the building but didn’t deter it from its mission. The post-quake period has seen infrastructure upgrades and new hotels throughout the city. Yet Puebla remains rooted in tradition. “Puebla is not an international tourist destination,” says Antonio Prado, director of the Spanish Institute of Puebla. “So you actually get to experience an authentic Mexican city.”

When to go: Year-round

How to go: Begin an individual Spanish-language immersion program (1 to 16 weeks) any Monday of the year at the Spanish Institute of Puebla. sipuebla.com

NATURE

1. Magdalen Islands, Canada

Why go now: See a beautiful but diminishing world of ice—and the harp seals that depend on it

What to know: When you walk on sea ice, it’s easy to forget that there’s an ocean below you. This frozen world is stripped down to essentials: impossibly blue sky, bright sun bouncing off a blanket of fresh snow, wind that vibrates like a cello, whiteness all around. Welcome to the harp seal nursery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off the Magdalen Islands, Quebec, one of three Northwest Atlantic harp seal pupping grounds. Adult seals migrate here from the Arctic, the pregnant females searching for suitable ice to birth on, and males follow, eager to mate. Harp seals are an ice-obligate species; they require a stable sea platform of ice for pups to survive. The pups are born on the ice in late February and early March. The young seals are one of the most captivating creatures on the planet, with obsidian eyes, charcoal nose, and cloud-soft fur.

When to go: February–March How to go: Liveaboard boat expeditions offer the luxury of time with the harp seals above and below the sea ice; Hotel Madelinot runs small-group excursions via helicopter.

2. Kalahari Desert, Southern Africa

If you like: Starry nights

Why go now: Look up to see one of the darkest skies on the planet

One of only a few International Dark Sky Sanctuaries, the vast 120,000-acre !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park is among the world’s darkest places. Distances in this remote border region between South Africa and Botswana are measured in dunes. Year-round stable temperatures, extremely low humidity, virtually zero light- or sound-pollution, and lack of cloud cover make the park—which scored an almost perfect 21.9 on the SQM (sky quality meter) scale of darkness—one of the planet’s best stargazing destinations.

Stay inside the park at the 12-chalet !Xaus Lodge, staffed and co-owned by the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities. Use the telescope on the open deck to observe the Southern Cross and other night-sky sights unique to the Southern Hemisphere.

“On moonless nights, Bushmen will teach you how to navigate by the stars, like Kalahari’s ancestral hunter-gatherers still do,” says Corné, a local ranger. “Just walk across the heart-shaped pan and trust the Milky Way and the Large and Small Magellanic Cloud dwarf galaxies to guide your path home.”

When to go: Aug-Sep

How to go: Spend two nights at !Xaus Lodge on Imagine Africa’s 14-night “Off the Beaten Track South Africa” trip. imaginetravel.com

3. Białowieża Forest, Belarus/Poland

If you like: Deep woods

Why go now: Discover one of Europe’s last true wild places

Untamed Białowieża Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve, protects remnants of lowland Europe’s last remaining primeval forests. Spanning nearly 550 square miles, and encompassing all of Białowieża National Park in eastern Poland, the vast forest creates an oasis of wilderness in the middle of a crowded continent.

Spot some of the more than 250 bird species and the most iconic of the forest’s 59 mammal species: the European bison, Europe’s biggest land mammal. Białowieża’s approximately 800 bison represent the largest free-roaming population of a species that rebounded in the forest after being hunted almost to extinction by 1920.

How has Białowieża largely retained its ecosystem for thousands of years? Biologist Mikałaj Czerkas credits swamps, which he says surrounded the forest several hundred years ago. Tomasz Wesołowski of the University of Wrocław says it’s thanks to the Polish kings and Russian tsars who protected it as a hunting ground. Whatever the reasons, the result is a wild place pulsating with the natural cycle of life and death. Martyna Szczepanik, editorial coordinator, Nat Geo Travel Poland

When to go: Sep-Oct

How to go: See wild bison and take a guided hike through Białowieża’s strictly protected primeval forest area on a four-day bison safari from Warsaw with Wild Poland. wildpoland.com

4. National Blue Trail, Hungary

If you like: Amazing ambles

Why go now: Take a hike on a lesser known European path

Despite its lack of soaring peaks (the highest is 3,327-foot Mount Kékes), Hungary is a dream hiking destination thanks to the country’s National Blue Trail. Meandering about 700 miles from Irottko Mountain, on the western border with Austria, to the northeastern village of Hollóháza near Slovakia, the Blue Trail (Kéktúra in Hungarian) is a wonderfully diverse web of paths labeled with white-and-blue-striped way markers.

Originating in 1938 and recognised as Europe’s first long-distance trail, it’s part of the nearly 6,500-mile European long-distance walking route E4, which begins in Spain and ends (with ferry connections) in Cyprus. So, while you could use the Blue Trail as a launch pad for an epic, cross-Europe trek, Hungary’s historic route is best experienced as a singular destination. Whether for a day hike or multinight trek, there’s a Blue Trail route fine-tailored to fit most interests. Paths climb gentle hills, traverse thick forests and extinct volcanoes, lead to mountain vistas and through medieval cities, and pass resorts on western Hungary’s nearly 50-mile-long Lake Balaton. Among the many cultural detours are World Heritage sites, such as the Old Village of Hollókő and the Buda Castle Quarter in Budapest. Tamás Vitray, editor in chief, Nat Geo Travel Hungary

When to go: Aug-Sep

How to go: Get a Blue Trail passport to earn stamps at checkpoints along the route. Collect all 147 stamps and receive a coveted Blue Trail Badge, or complete one of the three stretches awarding section-hike badges. kektura.hu/cimlap.html

5. Canary Islands, Spain

If you like: Coastal gems

Why go now: Reach an end of the world

Once considered the westernmost point of land in the known world, El Hierro is a world apart from the rest of Spain’s main Canary Islands, which are more often famed for sun-and-sand resorts. Smallest (104 square miles) and youngest in the Canary archipelago, El Hierro is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Global Geopark—and now the setting of an eponymous Spanish record-breaking hit television series.

Dramatic thrills extend to the astounding diversity of ecosystems, from lush meadows to rugged coastal cliffs and lunar-like terrain. Walking trails crisscross the island, some leading to spectacular Atlantic Ocean viewpoints. On the southern slopes, palm vegetation, fig trees, and vines give way to endemic Canarian pine forests. In western El Sabinar, the open slope is dotted with centuries-old juniper trees, wind-twisted into bizarre shapes. Off El Hierro’s southern coast, the crystal-clear waters of the Marine Reserve of La Restinga-Mar de las Calmas, or Calm Sea, is considered one of Europe’s top diving destinations. Josan Ruiz, director, Nat Geo Travel Spain

When to go: Sep-Oct

How to go: From September to June, self-guided walking tour specialists Macs Adventure offers a seven-­night “El Hierro: Edge of Europe” itinerary including lodging, luggage transfers, daily breakfasts, and route maps. macsadventure.com

6. Maldives

If you like: Blue lagoons

Why go now: Explore forward-thinking islands on the front lines of climate change

The first nation to champion the need to address climate change in the United Nations General Assembly, in 1987, the Maldives is an environmental protection trailblazer. For the idyllic, 1,200-island archipelago in the Indian Ocean, forward-thinking sustainability initiatives—such as the effort to be carbon neutral by 2020—are a matter of survival. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, much of the Maldives—which is the lowest-lying country on the planet (average elevation: five feet) and whose territory is about 99 percent water—could disappear in decades due to rising sea levels caused by global warming.

The 540-square-mile UNESCO Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve helps protect the Maldives’ fragile coral reefs, which support a high diversity of coral, fish, and bird species, as well as sea turtles, whale sharks, and other marine life. Visitors can promote reef health by joining in ocean-bed cleaning efforts or coral gardening programs organised by resorts. Marie-Amélie Carpio, senior editor, Nat Geo Travel France

When to go: Feb-Mar

How to go: Environmental protection practices are common at many of the Maldives’ resorts, including Soneva Fushi, which recycles 90 percent of its waste; Soneva Jani, built entirely with sustainable materials; and St. Regis Maldives Vommuli, which helps regenerate reefs.

7. Grand Canyon Natural Park, United States

If you like: American icons

Why go now: See a geological wonderland eons in the making

“The grandeur of the canyon confers dignity on every form of life that touches it,” wrote famed environmentalist Edward Abbey in the inaugural issue of Traveler, in 1984. Since its designation as a national park—the Grand Canyon celebrated its centennial in 2019—this natural wonder in northwest Arizona has dazzled visitors with its immense scale (277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep) and breathtakingly stratified geology that dates back to 1.8 billion years ago. The explorer John Wesley Powell, one of National Geographic’s founders, called the canyon “the most sublime spectacle on Earth.” Experienced hikers love the Nankoweap Trail, a dramatic North Rim-to-river route. But all views are unforgettable, from both rims down to the Colorado River. Learn more in the National Geographic Atlas of National Parks.

When to go: Sep-Oct

How to go: National Geographic offers several trips that visit U.S. parks, including the “Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion National Parks Family Expedition.” natgeoexpeditions.com/explore

ADVENTURE

1. Tasmania, Australia

Why go now: Venture to an epic isle that’s wild and beautiful, faraway yet familiar

What to know: Once considered a backwater, Tasmania is now one of Australia’s fastest-growing tourism destinations. Key to the appeal of Australia’s southernmost state is its raw natural beauty, which it owes largely to a combination of its remoteness (airport expansion plans are under way, but international flights are still a few years off) and the enduring green spirit of its half million or so residents. Swathed in 2,000-year-old trees and home to real-life devils (and even “tigers,” if you believe the rumors that the officially extinct thylacine lives on), it’s the stuff outdoor adventures are made of. After making the trek here, visitors find that most of Tassie’s attractions are surprisingly accessible. It takes just four hours to drive the length of the state. No matter where you base yourself, opportunities to become immersed in nature are never far away—nearly half the state is designated national park, after all. —Nat Geo Travel Korea

When to go: September–May How to go: National Geographic offers a 12-day “Australia: Tasmania to the Great Barrier Reef” itinerary that includes Hobart, Mount Field National Park, and Cradle Mountain–Lake St. Clair National Park.

2. Grossglockner High Alpine Road

If you like: Epic mountains

Why go now: Drive to views once accessible only to mountaineers

Designed to maximise scenic views, the serpentine Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a testament to the value of taking the long way home. Completed in 1935, the mountain-pass toll road packs 36 hairpin curves in its 29-mile route through Hohe Tauern National Park, one of central Europe’s largest protected natural areas. The touring route allows motorists to experience pristine high alpine settings previously accessible only to mountaineers.

The road, named for Austria’s highest peak, 12,460-foot Grossglockner, runs north to south across the provinces of Salzburg, Tyrol, and Carintha, from Fusch to Heilgenblut. Intended for savouring, not speeding, the route features multiple scenic overlooks and trailheads. Enjoy a leisurely lunch accompanied by views of 37 peaks and 19 glaciers at the historic Edelweisshütte inn, built in 1935.

When to go: Apr-May

How to go: Get discounted toll fees and help protect the high-alpine environment by renting an electric car. The road has charging stations at the beginning and end, and boasts Austria’s highest e-charging station. grossglockner.at/gg/en/index

3. Wales Way, United Kingdom

If you like: Scenic drives

Why go now: Follow far-reaching routes that get the blood pumping

Three new, fully mapped national touring routes, collectively called the Wales Way, showcase the best of this legend-filled land. At 185 miles, the Cambrian Way is the longest of the three roads, snaking north to south along the backbone of Wales. Sandwiched between mountains and sea, the Coastal Way is a sweeping 180-mile journey around Cardigan Bay on the country’s west coast. The castle-rich North Wales Way follows a centuries-old trading route 75 miles from northeastern Queensferry to the Isle of Anglesey.

Each driving itinerary is a gateway to wider outdoor adventures. Hike in Edmund Hillary’s footsteps on Mount Snowdon; inland surf at Adventure Parc Snowdonia; or go coasteering (a new adventure sport that combines rock climbing, cliff jumping, snorkelling, and more) on the Pembrokeshire coast. Zane Henry, project editor, Nat Geo Travel U.K.

When to go: May-June

How to go: Dragon Tours offers private and group itineraries tailored to participants’ interests. Owner/guide Mike Davies holds a graduate degree in medieval Welsh history and can help trace clients’ Welsh ancestors. dragon-tours.com

4. Tohoku, Japan

If you like: Blazing trails

Why go now: Escape the Olympic crowds naturally

 Less than three hours by train from Tokyo, home of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, Tohoku should get a gold medal for best unknown travel wonderland. Comprising the six northernmost prefectures on Japan’s main island of Honshu, this region features pristine forests, gorges and crater lakes, thousand-year-old temples and shrines, and venerable local festivals—yet less than 2 percent of international travellers come here.

Walk the Michinoku Coastal Trail, which runs for 620 miles from Aomori to Fukushima. The latter was devastated by the 2011 tsunami, and the newly opened trail is a stirring symbol of the area’s rebirth. As you hike through slow-paced villages, stop to sample fresh-from-the-sea scallops, oysters, sea urchin, and salmon roe, as well as katsuo (skipjack tuna) and maguro (Pacific bluefin tuna). Then hop on a boat for a fisherman’s tour of his favourite beaches, coves, and islands.

For skiers, Tohoku regularly records some of the planet’s heaviest snowfalls, and resorts such as Appi Kogen are exhilaratingly uncrowded. Fancy a poetic pilgrimage? Retrace the steps of 17th-century haiku master Matsuo Basho, including stops at the slope-side Ryushakuji temple and the holy peaks of Dewa Sanzan, where you still may encounter mountain-wandering yamabushi monks.

When to go: Year-round

How to go: Base yourself at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen, in Aomori, which offers 70 rooms and an open-air hot spring with views over the Sea of Japan. furofushi.com/english

5. Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

If you like: Volcanic wonders

Why go now: Jump through the Ring of Fire

No roads link the rest of Russia to the Kamchatka Peninsula, the vast, thumb-shaped tail of the Russian Far East. Extending into the sea between the Japanese and Aleutian archipelagoes, 776-mile-long Kamchatka is part of the Ring of Fire, the chain of volcanoes and seismically active sites outlining the Pacific Ocean. Due to the incredible density and diversity of volcanoes, geothermal features, and wildlife found here, six separate areas of the peninsula are included within the Volcanoes of Kamchatka World Heritage site.

Teeming with wildlife—including brown bears weighing up to 1,500 pounds or more—Kamchatka is an untamed, primordial place that, until recent years, was visited only by ardent adventurers. Now, thanks to an ongoing airport expansion project in the peninsula’s capital city and gateway, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, it’s somewhat easier to make the trek to Russia’s wild east. Getting around is more doable too with adventure outfitters, such as 56th Parallel and Explore Kamchatka, offering an increasing number of tours: volcano hikes, bear-viewing treks, heli-skiing, river rafting, and visits to tundra reindeer camps and the awe-inspiring Valley of the Geysers. Ivan Vasin, editor in chief, Nat Geo Travel Russia

When to go: Aug-Sep

How to go: Nat Geo Expeditions offers the “Across the Bering Sea: From Katmai to Kamchatka” cruise. natgeoexpeditions.com/explore

6. Zakouma National Park, Chad

If you like: Wild things

Why go now: Support an African elephant haven

Home to a rapidly growing African elephant population—some 559 in 2019 and a thousand expected by 2024—Zakouma National Park is an under-the-radar African safari destination. The park’s location, in southeastern Chad, one of the world’s least visited countries, makes Zakouma a best-kept secret—one worth sharing to help ensure its continued success.

Poaching previously had rendered the park nearly a war zone, with 90 percent of the wild elephants killed. Funding from the European Union and the 2010 decision to transfer park management to the public-private conservation organisation African Parks has brought back life to the region. In addition to its profusion of pachyderms, Zakouma is a playground for more than 10,000 buffalo and aboutw 1,000 Kordofan giraffes. Among other wild things at home here are nearly 400 species of birds, as well as cheetahs, leopards, and servals. Marina Conti, editor in chief, Nat Geo Travel Italy

When to go: Mar-Apr

How to go: Stay at the eight-tent Camp Nomade, open mid-December to mid-April, or the more affordable Camp Tinga, a 20-rondavel (round hut) camp open mid-November to May. africanparks.org

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